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The Growth of Buddhism in Australia

Andrew Williams

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“Buddhism has taken firm roots in Australia during the last few decades, due in part to people migrating to Australia from various Buddhist cultures and their 2nd generation, who either moved to Australia as children or were born there.
It is also due in part to the genuine interest in these precious teachings and way of life shown by Australian’s of all backgrounds. Some of whom have deep virtuous roots from practising the Dharma in previous lives, and others who are totally new to the Dharma, having a strong attraction to the peace, harmony and understanding that results from the Buddhist practises of morality, meditation and wisdom. Therefore, it is essential that the Dharma be taught in the English language, using terminology and expression that can be clearly understood.
Although there may well have been some interaction between Buddhists and Australia’s indigenous peoples throughout history, due to Australia’s proximity to Asia, the first recorded example of Buddhism there dates back to the 1850’s gold rush, when many Chinese people migrated to Australia, many of whom would have been Buddhist. The first known Buddhist temple was established in South Melbourne in 1856.
The first instance of a Buddhist monk arriving in Australia was in 1910, when an English-born monk arrived from Myanmar, and although over the years various monks visited Australia, it wasn’t until the 1970’s that monks began to permanently reside there.
People have been migrating to and visiting many countries around the world for a very long time, and even more so these days with easier access to international travel, and with globalisation.
As practising Buddhists we must be moral, compassionate and wise, and of benefit to all sentient beings, and not be the cause of conflict and trouble. Therefore, when we migrate to different regions around the world, including Australia, Buddhism and Buddhists have enriched their adopted culture with peace, harmony and understanding.
In a multicultural society, such as Australia, if we are wise, we can learn from each other, widen our view of the world and the ways of the world.
As Buddhists we must be kind and friendly, and engage in peaceful and harmonious interaction with others, based on understanding, and therefore we are generally a positive influence on those around us, silently encouraging others of varying persuasions to do likewise.
From my observation and experience teaching the Dharma in both Australia and the USA, Buddhists and Buddhist communities have done exactly that, been a positive influence and brought benefit to the region where they live and the people that live there.
Buddhists generally abide by the law of the land and assimilate peacefully within their chosen homeland.
In Australia, Buddhism is held in high regard as a way of peace. A blameless religion with a history that has caused peace, harmony and understanding wherever it has travelled, including in Australia, where the number of temples and Dharma centres, as well as the number of practitioners from all backgrounds, is constantly and consistently increasing.
Of course, as with everywhere, there are still many difficulties and obstacles with having access to and practising Dharma in a place like Australia, that is not considered a Buddhist country. For example, it is sometimes difficult and a long process obtaining such things as building and operational permits for Buddhist establishments such as temples, meditation centres and schools. Along with various other difficulties.
But these difficulties and obstacles can be overcome with consistent practise, pure intentions, good skills and enthusiastic effort.
May I also add that in Australia we have reasonably easy access to all of the Buddhist traditions and cultures, which I feel is a great opportunity for us all to develop genuine understanding into the meaning and practise of the Buddha Dharma, and to develop and maintain unity and support within the Buddhist community as a whole.
Remember we are one, so let’s help and support each other as much as possible, so that we are all able to study, practise and share the pure Dharma to the best of our ability, in our own countries and throughout the whole world.
May the immeasurably precious Buddha Dharma flourish throughout the whole world and throughout infinite space.”
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~Andrew. J. Williams~

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